The Emergence of Morality
November 2nd, 2018
Bacchus (Dionysus), god of wine, emerges with his followers. Falling in love with Ariadne on first sight, he leaps from his chariot, drawn by two cheetahs, towards her. Ariadne had been abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos by Theseus, whose ship is shown in the distance. The picture shows her initial fear of Bacchus, but he raised her to heaven and turned her into a constellation, represented by the stars above her head.
People are not necessarily that happy with the message of personal responsibility when they are really interested in the mechanics of social change. My sense is that life is unfair, social structures are unfair, the arbitrary way that illness is distributed into population is unfair — but despite that — the best level of analysis for rectifying that, in a practical and psychological sense, is at the level of the individual.
People who think in a collectivist manner — or people who are playing identity politics games that insist your group identity should be your hallmark — don’t like what I have to say at all. I am not a fan of identity politics types. I think it is a very dangerous game, particularly because it makes us tribal. And tribal people are very dangerous. As we degenerate into our tribal groups the propensity for violence increases as far as I’m concerned.
There is a proclivity for individuals to not take responsibility and lie, and lie about their own experience, and these are reasons why systems go astray. The Germans in Nazi Germany were willing to falsify their own experience. Same with communist Russia.
Sidebar Commentary: The responsibility falls on the sovereign individual. We are responsible for our own integrity, that of our families, and that of the state. For example, there would be no independence of action without competence.
Goal in Life
Conduct yourself so that life improves. Constrain malevolence and suffering to the degree that it is possible. And also work for a positive improvement of things in all levels.
Repeat actions that are noble and worthy.
Emergence of Meaning from Independent Action
As you put things together and take responsibilities for things, that is when meaning emerges. It emerges from that the same way it emerges from a symphony. Because a symphony is composed of layers and patterns (levels of reality) working harmoniously together, and they speak to people and they speak to people of meaning, and all music does that. And meaning emerges out of that. Meaning is actually an instinct. And this is a layer for being. This is also a thing most people do not understand. You use your brain to guide you through life. It does that by instilling the proper things you do with a sense of meaning.
Sidebar Commentary: These are outputs for models. Meaning is not on the surface of the world, it is the deepest instinct that you have.
Re-orienting reflex is what orients you to your interest, to things of interest. That is done subconsciously. For example, if something happens significantly around you that you did not expect, then you orient towards it. It attracts your attention and as you investigate what that is, that's associated with a sense of meaning.
And if you put your investigating into proper order then the meaning continues to reveal itself. So you can use the meaning as a guide to proper being. But you have to be very careful to conduct yourself honestly if you are going to do that. If you conduct yourself dishonestly they you pathologize the mechanism that orients you.
Suffering is built into the structure of existence, in some sense. It is a universal. People are relieved to hear that life is suffering, because they have a sense that is what is happening but no one is forthright about it. If you are sufficiently courageous and forthright in your approach, and you do not shy away, then you’ll find that there is something within you that will respond to the challenge of suffering with the development of ability that will transcend the suffering. There is pessimism, but if you turn and confront it voluntarily then you will find something in yourself that can develop enough to master that. The optimism is nested in the pessimism, and that is extremely helpful to people especially if they are struggling. It’s is as bad as you think, but you are more than you think you are.
Knowledge is Coded in Different Ways
Someone who is a good example acts out for you how you should be. And a good story portrays that dramatically. But an articulated representation tells you exactly why and explains it. Some of this needs to be more articulated than it has been because we have been detached from our underlying stories and examples partly because they have been criticized so much.
You actually cannot have a prolonged discussion of rights without having an equally prolonged discussion of responsibilities. The actual reason you have rights is so you can discharge your responsibilities. It’s not the other way around; part of the purpose of your rights is so you can be given an autonomous space that is protected so you can manifest what is necessary about you in the world. I have to leave a space for you so you can make your contribution for yourself, so you can take care of yourself, so you can shoulder responsibility for your family, and so you can help your community the best way you can.
Sidebar Commentary: Freedom of action, within what "rights" are decided for you by others within the community. Responsibility is more important than rights. Without responsibility you cannot have rights.
The Role of the Victim
People who feel like they are a victim are right. They are victimizers too.
Everyone is a strange mixture of victim and victimizer. Lots of terrible things happen to people that are not justifiable in some sense. Illness can strike people randomly. Where you are thrown into existence as a consequence of your birth ("thrownness" via 1950s existentialists). There will be times in your life that things twist in a way that is unfair to you, and that goes along with all sorts of unequally distribute privileges as well — that is the arbitrary nature of existence. But you cannot allow those sorts of things to define you because it is not that useful strategically.
When you are playing a card game, you are dealt a hand of cards. What do you do? You play the hand you have got the best you can. Why? Because all hands are equal? No, because you do not have a better strategy than playing the hand you’re dealt the best you can. That does not even mean it will be a winning strategy.
Sometimes you win, some times you lose, sometimes you lose painfully, and sometimes you lose painfully and unjustly. That’s not the point. The point is you do not have a better strategy and neither does anyone else.
Sidebar Commentary: This is why art of the advantage is useful. We are given a set of tools that terminate at playing the hand you are dealt the best you can. In a game of cards, when you want — or have to win — you use tactics during the conflicts that gives you the best chance at winning.
It is not so obvious how privilege and victimization are distributed. If you take someone who is doing quite well in life and you scratch under the surface you do not have to really scratch very far to find one or more profound tragedies of the past, or perhaps of the present.
No matter how well protected you are in the world, you are still subject to vulnerability (illness, aging, dissolution of relationships, death of dreams, death it self).
If you happen to regard yourself as a hapless victim, or even worse, an unfairly victimized victim, well then things go very badly for you. It is not a good strategy. You end up resentful, you end up angry, you end up vengeful, you end up hostile. And that’s just the beginning.
Sidebar Commentary: Others will adapt the environment such that they will take advantage of the underlying contempt, and sow seeds of destruction for their own gain.
It is better to take responsibility for the hand you’re dealt.
On Compassion and Empathy
We have been brought up to believe we need to be compassionate to each other. Feeling sorry for someone is not a moral virtue. Morality is much more complex than mere reflexive empathy. When is reflective empathy useful? When you are a mother and your child is less than six months old (the infant is always right).
Sidebar Commentary: Because of this circuity, it is a very powerful natural inclination that could easily become a vice (because vice is easier than virtue… in a similar way that it is easier to lose strength than gain it to begin with; almost like a video game where you have to press the spacebar to move up, but the default is quickly falling down).
This empathic circuitry could be easily utilized in a domain that is outside it’s proper purview. Un-reflexive empathy is not a moral virtue and just because you feel sorry for someone does not mean you are a good person; now, that may be a subcomponent of being a good person but it is very frequently the case that complex problems require sophisticated planning, thinking, and analysis.
It is not obvious that everything that looks good in the medium-to-long run looks good in the short run. Example: Disciplining a child that is socially-acceptable to everyone else.
One of your goals as an adult is to produce a child that is disciplined and socially acceptable to everyone else. You can undermine people by inappropriately — reflexively — feeling sorry for them.
Empathy guides us in specific domains.
The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth
The original meaning of meek (or the word) has been lost to translation
Those who have swords and know how to use them and choose to keep them sheathed shall inherit the earth. You have a moral obligation to be strong and dangerous. But to harness that and use it in the service of good.
Virtue is Not Easy
Virtue is not too easy.
We wouldn’t have to think if empathy guides us properly, and it could also make us very dangerous.
If you are very sensitive to an in-groups claim… that makes you very hostile to out-group members. Also, people are very susceptible to in-group claims and in-group thinking, and become very hostile to out-group members. Empathy drives the in-group identification.
What about the out-group? "Oh, they are predators. We better be hard on them."
They guise this hostility by saying the outside group are predators.
It is a Mother Bear’s compassion that gets you eaten.
It's the compassion of the mother grizzly that tears the predators of her cubs apart.
Sidebar Commentary: You might think, compassion is a virtue. Yes, it's a virtue, but any uni-dimensional virtue immediately becomes a vice, because real virtue is the intermingling of a number of virtues and their integration into a functional identity that can be expressed socially. Compassion can be great if you happen to be the entity towards which it is directed. But compassion tends to divide the world into crying children and predatory snakes. So if you're a crying child, hey great. But if you happen to be identified as one of the predatory snakes, you better look the hell out. Compassion is what the mother grizzly bear feels for her cubs while she eats you because you got in the way. We don't want to be thinking for a second that compassion isn't a virtue that can lead to violence, because it certainly can.
Sidebar Commentary: The scaling problem with compassion… You want to distribute resources equally for example among your children, because you want all of them to have the same chance, and even roughly the same outcome. That is, a good one. But the problem is that you can't extend that moral network to larger groups. As far as I can tell, you need conscientiousness, which is a much colder virtue. It's also a virtue that is much more concerned with larger structures over the longer period of time. And you can think about conscientiousness as a form of compassion too. It's like: 'straighten the hell out, and work hard and your life will go well. I don't care how you feel about that right now.' Someone who's cold, that is, low in agreeableness and high in conscientiousness, will tell you every time. 'Don't come whining to me. I don't care about your hurt feelings. Do your goddamn job or you're going to be out on the street.' One might think, 'Oh that person is being really hard on me.' Not necessarily. They might have your long term best interest in mind. You're fortunate if you come across someone who is disagreeable. Not tyrannically disagreeable, but moderately disagreeable and high in conscientiousness because they will whip you into shape. And that's really helpful.
Never do something for somebody else who can do it themselves, particularly if they are struggling with independence.
It is not you I care about, it is who you could be. It feels harsh because it is judgmental. But every ideal is a judge. You cannot get away from it.
You don’t know enough to go out there and change the world. You don’t know enough to wave around placards and tell people how to behave. Educate yourself. Get your act together. Learn some skills. Learn how to speak. Learn how to conduct yourself. Learn how to stand up. Learn how to become a force of nature. This message scares the hell out of everyone. You have the opportunity to contend with the structure is a reality. And you can take that on.
Be All You Can Be
You are not going to be who you can be by not pushing yourself to your limits. Because why would you be? It’s not like it’s easy. You have to be compelled in some sense. You have to be challenged.
As you develop ideas you have to let go of things. You have to let the deadwood burn off. You do that as a consequence of necessity in the pursuit of responsibility.
Universal Basic Income
There’s something to be said for political voice for working class and dispossessed.
Hierarchical structures do produce dispossessions, because they stack people up on the bottom. So people at the bottom need to have a political voice.
Mere economic rectification is insufficient. Redistribution of income doesn’t work.
Sidebar Commentary: We see this with the COVID-19 lockdown. People just want to get back to work. If you gave people more money, others will just increase prices for goods?
Universal basic income is predicated on the idea that man LIVES by bread alone and that is not how it works. If you gave addicts money they would die — maybe it’s a consequence of his overwhelming poverty… you can come up for some reason about that path that he took but it was not that simple.
People need purpose more than money even. Obviously, we don’t want people starving. It isn’t the provision of material well-being with ease that allows people to live properly even though a certain amount of material wealth if necessary precondition.
We need a meaning to grapple (wrestle) with. We need something to justify our lives. Like the struggle against privation and malevolence. The mere offering of material sustenance to people is not going to solve the problem.
Dostoyevsky knew this 150 years ago. He said if you give people everything they wanted… so all they had to do was eat cakes and busy themselves with the continuation of the species what they would do is just smash it all to hell so something interesting could happen. That is our fatal flaw and our salvation — our wanting to contend rather than sit back and have everything taken care of.
Sidebar Commentary: Wrestling and contending. This is all over the place. I love this.
Sidebar Commentary: There’s something to be said where people don’t want "Government handouts" and "Don’t need your money". There is pride in it.
The Structure of Life
Life is rife with suffering and malevolence and we erect hierarchies in an attempt deal with those problems because they are too alike, then hierarchies dispossess people and we have to take care of the dispossessed as well. And we have to draw out the relationship between meaning and responsibility. And the audiences are rapt as a consequence of that. When anyone is silent, then everyone is in the same place.
There is a hole in our culture where the information for meaning and responsibility has not been provided.
Sidebar Commentary: But there were times in our history where it was provided.
The issue of sacrifice is paradoxical.
Human beings discovered time and a consequence of that is to be aware of our own mortality. We can see how we can extend out into the future. We cannot be narrowly selfish and survive. This is a concept of time that is peculiar to the human species. The decisions you make now will have consequences in the future. For example, taking care of yourself now and taking care of people now will have consequences in the future and that you’re taking care of them in the future. Because you are a community of people distributed across time. So if you only act in your best interest then you were going to sacrifice the present for the future. And that is one of the greatest discoveries in mankind.
How you act to me right now has to be in harmony with what you want tomorrow. And this runs counter to empathy. Sometimes you have to beat yourself on the back of the head to get yourself to move forward properly.
But you repeat yourself: This is hard, this is hard. Have no empathy for yourself. Nice is not enough, nor the right thing to expect. But you have to treat yourself as if you are valuable. And that is how you should also treat other people. And it is a necessity to adopt the responsibility that goes along with recognizing that.
If you are tough on yourself and you’re not happy with where you are, you still deserve presumption of innocence. You need to treat yourself as if you’re someone that is valuable and is in need of love. Even if you know all the reasons why you fall short.
Think about how you talk to people you’re trying to treat properly.
"You don’t talk to someone: Here’s the way you deal with life: Lie every chance you get, falsely things, don’t take any responsibility and let it off with someone else…" no one believes that ever but we are tempted to cut corners and get away with something because no one will find out. They will find out and you’ll find out.
We know that doesn’t work.
People will always suffer from something. Then, you will need to untangle it (whether it is something done by you, parents, or grandparents). If you produce a rift in the structure of reality it will not go away until you rectify. And often it breeds more demons. You cannot bend the structures a reality. Everything that you distort ends up snapping back.
Why is it so hard for us to tell the truth?
It’s hard to confront things now that can be put off a bit. Because you discount them. If you lie about something you’re not gonna get punished now, until later. People do not want to face the consequences of their actions right here and now, so they put it off a bit. It is better to have the fight now, to confront it.
It’s better to confront it now.
The Evil Within Us
There is a little bit like Evil in Harry Potter (Voldemort). The darkness. What is it about respecting that we all have evil? It is important.
The capacity for evil is something that is not easily distinguishable from strength. The world seems to be structured so that we can act for the good and we can act for the evil. And that’s associated with self-consciousness, and that is illustrated in the story of Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve become self-conscious the scales fall from their eyes.
They realize they are naked. And to realize your are naked is to realize your vulnerability. That is why Adam and Eve clothe themselves.
If you are naked then you realize other people are naked too, if you can be hurt then you can realize that other people can be hurt too. It means that you can hurt them.That’s why the knowledge of good and evil goes along with the knowledge of nakedness.
When you understand you were vulnerable you understand it everyone else is vulnerable. And then you have the option of exploiting that. That is what transforms humans from animals. A predator can eat you, but a human being can torture and play with you — and will — for all sorts of reasons. Well, why is the capacity to do that useful?
It is useful to be strong and not have to use it because it makes you formidable. And I think you have to be formidable in order to move forward properly in the world. Even to get through obstacles: You have to have strength of character, some commitment. Some of that is: There will be a cost if you interfere with me. It will be the minimal cost necessary (if you have yourself under control), but do not think there will not be a cost.
Sidebar Commentary: This is why conflict is a necessary part of humanity. You must content with others who are contending with you. There is a game theory element to it.
If that is not built into your character then you have no strength. And you will certainly have no strength when you’re pushed by somebody who is malevolent… a bully.
If you encounter a bully and they push you, your response will be "there will be a cost for bullying me and you will pay it". Then the bully will go elsewhere. We know that bullies push around kids and they will find the kids that retreat and withdraw, and bully them.
Sidebar Commentary: Art of the Advantage. Social justice types bully those into their ideology, and those are only the ones who do not fight it.
We tend to believe the children are bullied because of some abnormality. (Norwegian Researcher: Bullying is a precursor to Fascism). At least 3/4 of children have some obvious abnormality that can be the focus of bullying attention. Everyone can have a reason to be bullied (name, height, weight, class, intellect, success). There’s something. The abnormality is not the cause of the bullying; it may become the focus of the bullying but part of the cause is the withdrawal in the face of the bullies because the bully think they can get away with it. Adult predators look for children who are easily cowed and do not put up a fight. You do not want kids who are terrified of strangers. You want kids who are confident, who will make noises, who are not terrified of strangers and put up a fight.
What creates evil? What is the nature of evil? First, Moronic evil: Theft — someone has something you have, and they can’t have it (material greed). After that: The desire to cause harm because you are vengeful — that’s where the idea that you are a victim begins to play a real roll. If you are a victim, and things are unfair then it is okay for you to react, and to lash out, and to hurt. Then, there’s the conscious desire to actually produce suffering, and you can take that really far. That maximizes out when you try to take avenge against God for the structure of reality itself.
Sidebar Commentary: You see approximations of this with high school shooters.
I do not like people who play identity politics. I don’t care if they’re on the left or the right.
The left says "here’s the victimized groups and our society is basically an oppressor oppressed society, and we should do everything we can to lift up the oppressed." I don’t know what we would do to the oppressors but I imagine it would not be that pleasant.
Then identity politic types on the right say "we should play identity politics but we should be white ethno-nationalists and look for white superiority or white ethno-state.
Both views are reprehensible on all fronts. Just because you are not a fan of identity politics does not mean you are part of the alternative right.
Sidebar Commentary: Art of the advantage is that they want you to put you in a box. Strategy gets put into play against people.
Unintended Consequences of Messing with Complex Social System
We mess with fundamental social structures at our great peril. For example, we have destabilized marriage when it’s not good for society and especially children.
Social scientists do not understand complex systems. If you have a complex system, and you have a hypothesis about how to intervene so that it will improve, so what will you learn? What you’ll learn once you implement the intervention is that you did not understand the system and that your stupid intervention did a bunch of things you did not expect it to, many of which runs counter to your original intent. You will inevitably learn that.
The probability that the initiative would produce the results desired is virtually zero. That tilts me in the conservative direction. And that is sort of working — because of bottom up tinkering — and I am not a utopian because I do not believe that you can have perfect systems. The system is good if it is not generating into absolute tyranny.
And history is about the degeneration into abject tyranny. The system in the West is struggling by not too badly, you should be in awe because they hard to reproduce. and not working too badly compared to the tyrannies of the past, which was the norm.
So, if you are going to take a system that is working well enough and you say, "I’m going to radically improve it" then it is going to break down. So do not listen to people who say that they can radically improve our system. You cannot radically improve it. You might incrementally — if you devoted a large part of your entire life to it and you are very humble about your methods and your ambition — but you if you think some careless tweak of this complex system as a consequence of some ideological presuppositions you learned in your three weeks of social justice class at university (and these professors shouldn’t exist anyway, because the system is so distorted) and that is going to produce a radically improvement, you cannot even fathom the depths of your ignorance.
Roles of Men and Women
Woman have become more autonomous, they have been able to transcend their limited roles. Roles were not imposed upon women by patriarchal men. That is a reprehensible view on history I think men and women fundamentally served as mutually sustaining partners throughout the course of history despite their continual disagreements and difficulties of life (birth control, sanitation, tampons). That has allowed women to participate in a much broader sense than ever before.
Traditional roles have been expanded. it is great in that a broader range of people have access to a fuller range of their talents. It is good for them and society. But that’s made negotiating marital role more difficult.
Insourcing vs. Outsourcing Responsibility
You cannot do difficult things without them being difficult.
I want to be remembered for wanting the best for people, not the worst. The reason I want the best is because I know a fair bit about the worst is like and I definitely don’t want that. There is enough hell: That’s the lesson of 20th century.
That means we take responsibility for that. We put the world together and we start with ourselves. We do that by adopting responsibility. Not by fixing someone else. Not even buy fixing to social structures. They are not even that easy to fix. Start with yourself. You are a fixer upper. You have a lot of work to do. Get at it. Maybe you’ll develop enough wisdom that you’ll be good for someone other than you. And then you can expand that outward. I would like the best for people.
How Reality Works
You are not driven by your past. You are not completely deterministic but you’re not driven by the past. What you do instead is confront the future of potential in front of you.
God calls forth being out of possibility. That is the essence of God.
Science and Religion: If you act it out then is it true? The words are true in the sense that if you act them out they are rational. Metaphorically true.
People will say, "Do you believe in god?" Well, what do you mean by God? What do you mean by believe?
A better answer: I act as if God exists. Does that mean you believe? What you believe is most appropriately expressed in your action. "By their fruits you will know them" is an action-oriented idea. That is enough belief to stake my existence on but that doesn’t mean I am certain of it. But how can you be certain of it? It is not within the realm of human capacity to be certain of it. But I act as if it is true. That is the best I can imagine. It is not within the realm of human capacity to know if there is belief.
There is wisdom in religious writing. There is wisdom beyond what a scientist can offer.
There is a fundamental Grammer offered by religions. I choose to believe in the fruits of my actions shows what I believe in life. There is wisdom accumulated over time beyond would a scientist can explain.
The question to ask: Do you believe in the story. For example, no one questions whether Pinocchio is alive. It is a wooden puppet! No one questions why the wooden puppet should rescue the follow from the belly of the whale. (i.e., Torah or Bible or Quran does not need to be literally true). Do you believe in the story!
These stories have a pattern. And these patterns have a function. That is a religious function. People say: "I don’t know if I believe". Well, do you follow the story? Harry Potter books are a good example (deeply religious substructure). For a book to become that popular it has to speak to something that is in everyone. Otherwise, why would they become that popular?
In the second volume Harry confronts the Basilisks, the thing that turns you to stone, the thinks that lurks in the magic castle. That’s life, that’s Jaws. It’s the same structure. We have a structure. It’s kind of magical. It has a hierarchy. But underneath there’s chaos. And terror. And that can come up at anytime and paralyze you with its gaze. Turn you to stone because it is so awful. So you have to go down into the depths and confront that thing voluntarily and you’ll find what is if great value in that pursuit and you’ll be reborn.
Do you believe it. Can you act it out?
These patterns are archetypes. Why do you think Harry Potter was so popular?
Sidebar Commentary: That is the Musashi story.
"Do you believe it"? That’s the wrong question. It should be, "Do you act it out". It may not be the right pattern and human race might be doomed. But for better or for worse it is our patterns. The snakes are after us… well, we can cower in our den or we can go out and find the source of the snakes and we can contend with it.
There is an association with Snake, Garden of Eden, and Satan. There’s always a snake. What’s the worst possible snake? It isn’t an actual snake. It is a metaphorical snake.
That is part of the even deeper mythology.
This snake could be your enemy. So you go out in defeat your enemy. But the snake is still there. Where? It is in your heart. So you have to confront the snake in your heart. So what is the ultimate battle? It is with the snake that is in your heart. That is metaphorically true but even more metaphysically true. There is nothing else as true.
Uniting Each Other Through Metaphorical Truths
The dividing line between good and evil is between your tribe and my tribe.
Constrain the evil within. That is your primary moral obligation. It is not your tribe and my tribe. Don’t be thinking that — this is why I don’t like identity politics. Don’t be thinking my tribe and your tribe. That is a mistake. It is more sophisticated than that. You have to understand it as a spiritual battle not as a economic battle, Or a physical battle.
You have to conceptualize as a spiritual battle — that abstracts it. That puts it up in the level of abstraction where it is properly dealt with. Otherwise it degenerates into tribal violence.
Religions provide a grammar. Religion provides the basic building blocks for a lot of folks. What do you say about the argument that God is dead? Look out for what will replace it.
Nietzsche and Jung
That is the thing. This is why I’m an admirer or Nietzsche. "God is dead, we have killed him, we will never find enough water to wash away the blood."
Nietzsche thought everything would fall because that foundational piece has been torn away. Well, what is that foundation piece?
Nietzsche thought humans would have to create their own values in the aftermath of the death of god. Dostoyevski didn’t think the humans can do that. Jung discover that you cannot create your own values because you are a certain sort of being, you have a nature, and the best you can do is go down into the depths and rediscover the values. And that is the same as the re-vivification of God. It is the rescuing of the father from the belly of the beast. It’s an eternal return to the depths and reclamation of the relationship with the divine spirit… it is your ability to contend with potential and turn it into reality. It if your fundamental responsibility. And we elevate that to the highest value and say "that’s divine". Yes! That’s divine. How is that related to the transcendent divine?
"Being as such."
Human beings are built on a hunter platform because we can throw and aim. The question with human beings, what is the ultimate aim? It’s not to hunt — it is to provision. Because everyone cooperates and because everyone shares and you get rid of hunger "as such". Instead of aiming at an animal we aim at something higher. That’s encapsulated in our narratives.
Everything we do has to do with aim. It’s in our language. that’s the center? It is the highest possible aim. It shows how deeply the idea of hunting is in up. Sin (hamartia) is to miss your target. Why do you miss? Because you did not aim, or you refused to aim, or you had no aim. We need an aim, it orients us. It gives us directions and gives our living meaning.
Without culture… there is a lot of layers of culture that got us to where we have gotten to. There is a collective unconscious that senses thousands years of human evolution and that culture cannot be discarded. You throw that culture away, the traditions you are not even sure why they exist, and you discard them you will not be aware of the consequences. You cannot toss them, all the traditions, even if you are not sure why they exist. Many of archetypes are vital to us.
Archetype is a behavioral pattern, or proclivity. The secondary archetype would be the reflection of that in a story. For example, a behavioral proclivity is how we react to a certain predator (the ground of that archetype is the biology): You freeze when you are frightened. You turn to stone (Medusa). That is wired into us. It happens way faster than you can type. That is secondarily reflected in a story, which is abstracted. Ground is biology, then manifestation of that biology in action.
They are important, because if they aren’t, we wouldn’t be hardwired (not just running away, but respect parents — filial respect built in… but it’s pliable because you can respect them and still die… but as a rule of thumb it’s there as a pattern).
What is the aim? That is the religious question.
Bottom Up Emergence of Morality
Principles are so complex that we cannot articulate them any understand them.
Nietzsche: We tend to think that morality emerges in thought then is imposed on behavior. That we think of the rules and then we apply them. No! We evolve the rules, then we observe them in behavior, and then we tell stories about them. And then out of the stories we can abstract general principles. Then maybe we can get to the point of an articulated morality. It’s is bottom up. Now, there are top-down effects because as you articulate you start to change her behavior. But a lot of this is moved up from the bottom.
Emergence of Mortality in Games
Rats (and dogs) engage in rough and tumble play.
The game is not one bout. The game is a repeated bout. The emergence of fair play is that you have to let a little rats win once in a while. The game is not one bout. The game is repeated bouts. If the big rat plays unfair then the little rat won’t play. This is the morality. It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how the play the game.
Play so that you will be invited to play because the winner is the person who is invited to plays the most games. So, what does that mean?
Try to win because you’re no fun if you don’t try to win. Sharpen your skills because you are no fun if you do not try. Help your damn teammates because it is a team effort and you want to push them up as you pushed yourself out. Distribute the spoils, do not hog all the glory (if you are ahead, pass the ball). Act in this admirable sportsman like manner.
That is prototypical morality (good sport over here, etc.). Then we get a good picture of the good sport looks like. The good sport is like the good citizens. And we start telling stories about that. But we cannot understand. We have to build the story up from the behavior. So you look at these old stories, there is behavioral wisdom encoded in the stories.
Moses leads his people through the desert. You go from Tyranny into the desert. Not to the promised land. That’s why you stay in tyranny because you have to go into the desert and people don’t want to go into the desert. Then what do you do? Fragment and fight over what is important! That is what Moses faces. Israelites fight like mad (with each other) and complain about the desert. He adjudicates their disputes… he tries to figure out "How should these people live"? Then he goes up to the mountain and POOF, he returns with "these are the rules to live by. This is how you conduct yourself behaviorally so everyone can prosper."
Rules are discoveries based on bottom-up observations (adjudication) the rules wouldn’t have been appeared.
Behavioral structures are acting out the archetypes. It appears these "chimps are following these rules". you are extracting our the essence of these behaviors.
Stories are compelling because you want to imitate them. You get the drama down. Their are principles that can be articulated that underly the patterns. The natural ethic is not just a rational construct. The articulated ethic matches the story. The story matches the behavior and the behavior matches the biology and the biology reflects the structure of being. That’s musical layering of all these layers on top of each other.
It’s not just rules top-down. Top-down is just the observation.
Complexity Management vs. Mental Illness
We have a complexity management problem (vs. using the term mental illness).
Something much more understand is that we have a complexity management problem. The doctrine of "turning to that which faces you" is a complexity management solution.
What do you do when terrible things come to you: Turn around and chase them back.
That’s the classic story of the Dragon Fight.
The Need for Adversaries
Idea: Snakes gave people vision. The more snakes the better our vision. There’s a metaphysical principle there.
Sidebar Commentary: This is why humanity is about conflict and cooperation.
Why does reality have an adversarial nature? Why would God set something on you? An adversary makes you stronger. Isn’t that cruel? Not if the person who set the adversary on you believes you can win.
Master and his Emissary (Hemispheric Function): If you want to make a very small movement with your right hand, the best way to do that is to put your left hand up and push on your right hand, and then to push. It’s called Opponent Processing. Precision in action is a consequence of opponent processing. You have it between right and left hemispheres. To make things function you need this opposition between powerful forces (chaos and order; good and evil; yin and yang). Pushing hand to make micro movement.
Maybe you get a higher good when there is an opposition between good and evil.
Maybe the good you get when good and evil are both possibilities is a higher good you get then where there is just good.
Sidebar Commentary: To make things function you need an opposition between powerful forces. Order and chaos opposition. Left brain right brain. Republican and Democrat. Good and evil. Higher good when pushed against evil.
Why can we not get two groups to talk to each other?
Right: You have to accomplish useful things in the world just to survive. If you’re going to do that in a social space then you do that by constructing a hierarchy. And if you construct a hierarchy it’s going to be of a certain steepness because the people at the top are going to be more successful than the people at the bottom. There’s also hierarchies of productivity. The people at the top are going to be more productive than the people at the bottom — and those overlap to some degree. So, you have to do useful things to survive and if you do useful things in a social system then you have to build a hierarchy. Hierarchies are necessary and valuable.
Left: The hierarchy tends towards ossification and corruption, and it dispossess people at the bottom.
Those are both true. Part of opponent processing. You need hierarchies (older than capitalism, the West, trees), but they tend toward corruption and dispossession. That doesn’t mean we should organize our societies on the lines of lobsters — it’s not the point. You cannot attribute hierarchies to the West or Capitalism. It’s a foolish critique.
Image from Wikipedia.org